World Series 2013: fuel for the Hot Stove League

No matter who wins the World Series, the Hot Stove League opens at the end of the week, and there is plenty to talk about. Photo: The Hot Stove League opens this week (

CHARLOTTEOctober 28, 2013 — The Hot Stove League is not far away. For non-baseball fans that means the off-season; the time of year back when baseball really was the national pastime and lovers of the game spent the winter around a pot belly stove arguing endlessly about seasons past and future.

Now the World Series is a three game series. The teams will go back to Boston after tonight’s game in St. Louis and everything could be over on Wednesday. If not, then late Halloween night for sure.

SEE RELATED: World Series Game Three: Rule of thumb

Game four is in the books, but the controversy surrounding Saturday night’s walk off finish on an interference call still lingers. Only time will tell whether it etches its way into Red Sox lore along with Carlton Fisk’s home run, Bill Buckner’s error, Bucky Dent, Aaron Boone, or Big Papi’s heroics in 2004.

So while the subject remains hot, and the Series still has life, here are a few points to ponder about the third game controversy and other items as the stove gets warm.

According to the rules, it does not matter whether a fielder intends to obstruct a base runner. Intentional or not, the runner has the right of way and the fielder must relent. Will Middlebrooks probably did not intentionally obstruct Allen Craig from running. He was, after all, face down in the dirt, but that is of no consequence. Distasteful as it may have been for Boston and their fans, the umps got it right.

During spring training, base runners practice running into opposing players when they are caught in a rundown. Even if a defensive player does not have the ball, if the runner touches him it is interference. While interference rarely happens, players are taught to make contact if possible.

SEE RELATED: 2013 MLB World Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

Some argue it is an obscure rule that should be changed. Valid point, except that obstruction is so infrequent during a baseball season that, for all intents, it would be a minor alteration. What made  Saturday’s call so dramatic was that it was the deciding play in a World Series game.

Another point lost in the frantic hullaballoo at the end was Allen Craig’s field position when the play occurred. Craig was running from second base to third. Anyone who has ever played baseball knows that a runner instinctively goes to the outside of the bag on a throw to the inside of the diamond.

The pictures unquestionably show that Craig was well inside fair territory when he tried to jump over Will Middlebrook’s legs. It would be nice to believe Craig was a genius by reacting so quickly, but chances are the play happened so fast that he had no time to think about it.

Had Craig done what players usually do, there never would have been interference.

SEE RELATED: MLB 2013 World Series Preview: St. Louis Cardinals

If, however, Craig had taken the usual route, he would not have stumbled and the play at home would have been much closer. Daniel Nava’s throw from left field, perfect as it was, probably would not have been there in time. Put another log in the stove because there’s no way to know for sure.

Obstruction is based upon an umpire’s judgment as to whether interference occurs. When a final decision is made, the ruling stands. Which brings up another debate about phantom tags at second base on double play balls.

Infielders at second and short are frequently far off base at second when turning double plays. Technically the fielder is supposed to be in contact with the bag when catching the ball, but if the throw beats the runner by a significant margin umpires almost always call the runner out. The reason is because the out is not in question which makes the game faster and better to watch.

If a play is close enough to put the outcome in doubt, that is another story. Here again, it is a judgment call, but the phantom play at second is hardly ever challenged.

Baseball steps into a brave new world of technology in 2014 when it expands replays beyond home runs to other aspects of the game. Most players and fans favor the innovation believing it is important to get it right. It is almost guaranteed that at some point, even a replay controversy will erupt. Which raises the question, why have officials in the first place if technology is the ultimate determining factor?

It has been a dramatic World Series where interference calls and pick-off plays have ended games. Where a starting pitcher came on in relief. Where umpires reversed a call. Where just about anything can happen and many weird things have already happened.

Winter nears and debate looms for those who recall the good old days of the Hot Stove League.

Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe. Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (  

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Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor has been travel writer for more than three decades. Following a career as an award winning sports producer/anchor, Taylor’s media production business produced marketing presentations for Switzerland Tourism, Rail Europe, the Finnish Tourist Board, Japan Railways Group, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council and the Swiss Travel System among others. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club ( and his goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.


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